New 52 Batgirl Review

Batman Unlimited
New 52 Batgirl
6 Inch Scale
By: Mattel

Greetings once again true believers! Your friendly neighborhood Batced back again after a bit of an absence. Hope you, dear readers, have been healthy, wealthy and happy during the interim as I hit you over the head with another figure review.

Inspired by Batman, Barbara Gordon fought Gotham City evildoers as Batgirl. But when the Joker shot her in the spine, she was confined to a wheelchair indefinitely. Determined to walk again, Barbara trained intensely and was able to resume her work as the crime-fighting Batgirl. Although her traumatic memories will not easily fade, she can once again be seen fearlessly swinging over the rooftops of Gotham City as a sign of hope and perseverance.

First and foremost I’d like to dedicate this review to Carmine Infantino, Batgirl’s co-creator and a titanic talent during the Silver Age, along with being a brilliant editor and publisher during the Bronze Age for DC Comics and Marvel, who passed away on April 4. The comics industry is still feeling his influence sixty years later.

At first announcement, I thought DC was going to retcon “The Killing Joke” in order to make Barbara wear the cowl again. The story needs no introduction or much mention of the name; I’m sure the readers of Infinite Hollywood have read the story numerous times by now, its importance nothing to sneeze at. But DC editorial assured that certain things would still be in continuity in the New 52, especially in regards to the Batman universe. Thusly, Barb still felt the Joker’s bullet knock her down. She also still became Oracle, and was a member of Birds of Prey. Since the New 52 relaunch, Batgirl’s solo title has been a pretty moderate seller; the new title’s first trade paperback “The Darkest Reflection” was also a New York Times Bestseller. Not too shabby for a character who hadn’t been in the cowl for twenty years.

As one of the prominent members of the Batman family, Barb has seen several incarnations as a figure under many different corporations. Under the Four Horsemen’s watchful eye for Mattel, we’ve had two previous versions of Barb, one in Silver Age appropriate colors, the other coming from late in the Bronze Age (when she ditched the black bodysuit and dark blue cowl for a gray bodysuit and lighter blue cowl). And now we have one for the New 52 Age (if anyone’s calling it such a thing) courtesy of the new Batman Unlimited series from Mattel. Swing a bat-line with me and we’ll go over its finer points.

Barb comes in the standard packaging for both Batman and DC Unlimited. As stated previously in my New 52 Batman review, the packaging design was inspired by last year’s Batman Legacy line, with the series logo prominently displayed on top, the character name on the bottom, and a portion of artwork on the left hand side.

The portrait artwork on the front comes from the cover of the relaunched title’s first issue by artist Adam Hughes (he of the cheesecake in comics). A larger portrait can be found on the back. It’s a good choice as a dynamic piece: it shows Barb in full on hero-mode amongst a flock of bats, grinning broadly from ear. I’m probably reading too much into it, but the work recalls the whimsical fun of the Silver Age with the brooding darkness of the Modern Age.

Underneath the portrait is a blurb about Batgirl’s statistics, with an image of New 52 Batman and the Super Powers deco’d Penguin. Open the folds up, and there’s advertisements about MattyCollector, Mattel’s online service that offers subscriptions for several lines (beginning with the Four Horsemen’s second go-round with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and now splitting off into DC Comics, Voltron, WWE, and Ghostbusters).

At first glance, Batgirl appears to be the same body we’d seen used earlier, the previously mentioned Silver and Bronze Age incarnations. Mattel and the Four Horsemen have dropped a rarity: a brand spanking new sculpt for Batgirl…well, scratch that. The head looks to be a reuse of the older Batgirl head, but it’s been given a new paintjob that it looks wildly different from the previous Batgirls.

From the neck down it’s all brand new, beginning with a newly sculpted torso to simulate the armor of her costume (which does raise the question of who is going to use this body later on with so many specific pieces to Babs). Her bat logo is sculpted and raised, along with her belt (reminiscent of her Silver/Bronze Age costume which had a stylized bat for the buckle, something the figures did not accurately represent). The tops of her boots, which were sculpted onto the lower shins originally, are now a separate element made from soft plastic. The potential for future warping is there, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just sculpt them directly onto the figure like before.

Missing this go-round for Babs are the famous spiked gauntlets, replaced instead by gloves that have a flare where the elbow inserts into the glove. These are also sculpted with various striations on the forearm. The hands are a remake from the older figures, with the left hand being open and ready to hold a batarang and the right being closed into a fist. Lastly, Babs is given a new cape, black with a purple undercoat.

There’s more to say about other sculpting choices, but I’ll get to that when I mention the articulation.

New 52 Batgirl’s color scheme looks to be inspired by the way Alex Ross depicted her in “Justice”, with a strong contrast of gold and black. There’s some mess on her belt, and some uneven painting on her logo, but over all this is one of the rarer pieces I’ve bought where I’ve been satisfied enough with the paint job.

Babs is a well known redhead, like Ralph Dibny—Elongated Man—and while her earlier figures attempted to paint the hair as accurately as possible, the results were hit or miss. The red this time looks really nice, with a black wash applied to it. The wash is uneven and looks like it was just tossed on there but in the right light makes her hair pop immensely. I’d mentioned before that her head is a holdover from those old figures, just repainted differently and the difference shows: little details such as makeup, mascara, and the cleanest lipstick I’ve ever seen on a figure of a woman make the world of difference. However, the head is one area I would keep a lookout for: there have been some reports of a brunette Batgirl shipping in some cases. I don’t know if that’s a paint error or running change circulating but it does prove interesting that such a “variant” would exist.

Speaking of variants, the more I looked at this head and body, I realized that this would make a perfect base for the Modern Batwoman.

I had to cut my discussion of the sculpt early to save some details for this section, namely because there are some issues where the sculpt overrode the articulation. For one thing, Batgirl is missing an ab-crunch that was prominent on the previous figures, as well as a lack of a waist. She does have a torso swivel that is often seen on Hasbro females, but unlike those figures, Babs can’t move up and down with hers. She can barely move left to right, and I’m afraid to push it any further but the way the joint is constructed she can bend over for any dynamic action poses. Part of me thinks this choice was made to sacrifice the torso articulation for the sculpted armor but I could be wrong here.

She’s also lost the swivels in her shoulders; these are also replaced by Hasbro style balljoints found at the forearm. She can bend that arm just shy of ninety-degrees, but it just barely creeps there. The Hasbro balljoints can also be found at the tops of her boots, which caught me by surprise that she’d be tooled with such a joint when there hadn’t been a distinctive need for one before (of course, I’m sure others thought the same way when Mattel began introducing double jointed knees and elbows late in DC Universe Classics run). That balljoint actually causes restriction, where the knee can’t bend to its full ninety-degree range.

All counted, Babs moves at her neck, mid-torso, elbows, wrists, hinge-hips, lower legs, and ankles.

As I said before in my Batman review, it is not like Mattel isn’t without its backstock of batarangs to give to the Bat-family. Babs gets zilch in terms of accessories, which is a shame given that she has a hand perfectly sculpted for something. But on the one hand, given the fact that she is a new sculpt, it’s very likely that an accessory for her didn’t cost out when all was tallied.

And we come to whether or not she is a worthwhile purchase. Babs retails for $15.99 plus tax at Target, which is where I bought her from. I cringe when I remember Marvel Toys (formerly Toy Biz) produced Legendary Comic Book Heroes at the cost of $8.99 a figure barely half a decade ago, but that was when the prices of oil and plastic was at least slightly stable.

Her lack of accessories and poor articulation will make her take a serious hit. For the price, you are getting a 100% new sculpt which is such a rarity in these days of repaints and reuse. She is in a nice costume that pops from the shelf (the gold really looks fantastic in person) and for the most part is a solid figure all around. But the flipside of that script is you are going to have to deal with the poor articulation , especially if you’re like me and love posing your figures.

Final Thoughts:
I may have been born twenty years after, but I did grow up on reruns of the 1966 Batman TV show, and Yvonne Craig’s portrayal of Batgirl was my favorite. I’m a moderate Batgirl fan, I enjoy many of the Silver and Bronze Age adventures thanks to DC’s reprint collections she gets featured in, and her use in media related to Batman. Slowly I’m accumulating more Batgirl figures than Robins.

I think that this will be the last version we see of the Barbara Gordon Batgirl, as Mattel has seemingly covered all of her costumes up to the present and I do not think they will visit her Oracle phase (especially since DC Direct already included an excellent one in the Birds of Prey box set from years ago). I do foresee them reusing this body, potentially for the Kate Kane Batwoman or even the Stephanie Brown Batgirl (the latter probably more likely than the former). The design on those characters may be different but I can’t imagine why the Four Horsemen would go through so much trouble designing a new body like this if it weren’t there for potential reuse in the future.

Compared to New 52 Batman or Hawkman, Batgirl falls flat. I do wish the figure had been tooled a lot different for a new sculpt, because there is honestly a lot to like here that it’s to forgive many obvious oversights made in her construction. But comparing her to the other two Babs figures, this one sits low on the totem pole as a not needed addition unless you, dear reader, are interested in collecting New 52 merchandise and are curious as to the sculpt’s newness.

2 Responses to New 52 Batgirl Figure Review

  • Ronnie says:

    Heh, retcon. It’s funny, it wasn’t even MEANT to be in continuity until it was a success. Moore didn’t intend it and DC didn’t /want/ it, which I can understand. Yeah, I’d be glad to pretend it was never continuity, but I have personal reasons. I respect it as a story now, and have liked it since… about high school age. But, well. The full story’s kind of morbid. See, I was an elementary school kid when The Batman was on, and that introduced me to Batgirl. And I fell in love with that one. Wonderful, fun character. So of course when I’m in fifth grade and I first step foot into a comic book store, I ask the guy behind the counter for recommendations on good Batgirl stories. He points me to two graphic novels- Batgirl Year One, and the Killing Joke. I buy them both, get home, devour year one, start on Killing Joke, and I’m getting kind of hyped when Barbara appears because Batgirl hasn’t been in the entire thing so far… And then /it/ happens. And I throw that book at the wall out of sheer surprise, before walking over and looking to see that what I think happened just happened. And yet, this wasn’t enough to stop me. I read through that sucker, and that was my first taste of actually being scared from a comic. Never had such a visceral reaction again, after that.

  • Black Arbor says:

    The heads not reused. It’s a new sculpt. you can tell by the different shape of the ears and the way the eyeholes in her mask are shaped.

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